This is another one of those big hot button topics that is flooding the media. (A bit of an irony there!) For those of you who don’t know, EMF means Electro Magnetic Frequency / Field and anything that generates electric current also generates an EMF, including living things. The problem is that we living creatures are now being subjected to more electromagnetic fields and wireless radiation than ever. Moreover, some of us are sensitive to them.
Some of you may have watched those paranormal investigation shows that are so popular now. I confess, I’ve been a fan of ghosts and the paranormal since I was a kid, so I’ve seen some of the better shows where they examine ‘evidence’ with a skeptic’s eye, and also some of those shows where the investigator runs out of the room screaming in terror because “something touched my face!!!” (personally, I think the screaming experts are a lot more fun). On those shows, the investigators usually show up with all their gadgets, which usually includes an EMF meter to detect changes in the electromagnetic field, which may mean the presence of a ghost (!!). On one of those earlier shows (not sure if it’s still on), I learned what a Fear Cage is. While I knew what EMFs are, I didn’t realize until I started watching these shows what kinds of effects electrical fields can have on a person. In this episode, the client called in the investigators because he was ‘feeling watched’ in his house, was anxious all the time, felt sick and had started seeing ‘apparitions.’ One of the first things these investigators did when beginning an investigation was examine the locations for anything that could be causing the allegedly paranormal phenomena (they call this ‘debunking’). What they found was that the house, which was being renovated at the time, was essentially a Fear Cage, meaning there was so much exposed electrical wiring, also ungrounded, that the house was flooded with electrical energy. It was off the charts on their EMF meters. Prolonged exposure to high EMF can cause (among other things) headaches, nausea, anxiety, heart palpitations, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), paranoia and auditory and visual hallucinations. The client had not mentioned having headaches until they told him about the high EMF. Essentially, they told the client to have an electrician fix the EMF problems and if he was still having ‘paranormal’ problems, they’d come back and investigate.
This episode was almost 20 years ago when, unless you had the bad luck to live next to an electrical transformer or tower, pretty much the only people who paid any attention to EMF and weren’t physicists or an electricians were pretty much ghost hunters. Once cell phones, wifi, Bluetooth devices and their towers and accessories became much more prevalent, more people started realizing that EMF could cause physical problems, and that some people are more sensitive to it than others. This is a good thing if you are ghost hunter (you’re a human EMF detector!) but other than that, there’s not a lot of advantages.
I am one of those “human EMF detectors” and I realized it when I broke my wrist almost twenty years ago. The doctor sent me for an X ray and I was sitting next to the machine with my wrist laying flat on the platform. The tech (safely behind the shield) turned on the light putting my wrist squarely in the crosshairs. When he turned on the machine, I blurted out: “wow, it tingles!” and he gave me a weird almost scared look and said “you can feel that?!” “uhhh, yeah,” I replied, a little uncertain. Was I not supposed to feel it? It was a tingly tickly sensation in my arm. Since then, I have noticed when I have my cell phone or other wireless device in my hand, I can tell when it is downloading or connecting (when the little wheel is going or not). It’s the same tingly tickly sensation. Beyond recognizing when an electronic device is on or not working, it really hasn’t caused too many problems other than occasional headaches, a little tinnitus and minor physical irritations when I am around a lot of electronics for extended periods of time. Standing in our electrical room at the office usually gives me a little anxiety and/ or headaches, but honestly, that could just be because I don’t know beans about fixing any of those things.
But I’m really not a techno-junky so unless it’s my phone, iPod or tablet, I don’t spend a lot of time around electronics once I leave the office, which does not have wifi. I have one television (not a smart variety), on the other side of the living room from me and my wifi device at home is mobile, so unless I’m actually using it, it’s not on. The same goes for my laptop. The Bluetooth device for my phone is probably what bothers me the most: it sits outside my ear and if I wear it for more than twenty minutes or so, my inner ear starts to feel weird and it takes a couple hours or so after removing it before my ear feels ‘normal’ again. I usually wear a Fitbit, which is also Bluetooth, but apparently it’s not strong enough to bother me, and any of my wireless devices that I do leave on are usually a couple feet or more away from me. I don’t keep my phone in my bedroom: I charge it on the other side of the house. It’s not that I’m scared of EMF pollution- it’s just what is convenient for me.
Most people don’t know if they are sensitive to EMF until it starts causing them problems. Paleo Magazine Radio has recently done two podcasts covering EMF and wireless radiation and some of the problems it causes: Jeremy Johnson (2/13/2017) and Alison Main (3/13/2017). For most people, the biggest issues with electronics are headaches, eye strain and sleep disturbances. Most electronic screens emit blue light, which our brain interprets as sunlight. This is why most tips on sleeping better include turning off or putting away your computers, tvs, tablets and phones about an hour before going to bed. Some also suggest blue light blocking glasses (the ones I’ve seen look like giant orange sunglasses) or using the blue screen blocker app/ function on your device. My kindle fire has a blue screen function which essentially turns my screen varying degrees of yellow-orange. (I don’t use it- the orange gives me a bigger headache than the blue light.)
Personally, I think this has the potential to become one of those ‘Chicken Little’ issues (“the sky is falling! the sky is falling!”) that gets people all worked up over something that is not an issue for them, like how it’s become ‘fashionable,’ as it were, to be gluten-free, whether you are gluten sensitive or not. I don’t want to belittle EMF sensitivity, because it can cause some real physical problems for those who suffer from it. I am fairly lucky in this regard: I am not as sensitive as others are and I’m not surrounded by EMF/ wireless radiation as much as most people. Those who live and work surrounded by wireless technology and higher EMF emitters can become extremely ill if they are sensitive to it. Actually realizing that it’s the EMF which is making you sick is the biggest hurdle for most sufferers; it’s usually not obvious that it’s the wireless router in your house that’s causing you problems.
Both of PMR’s guests offer some good tips on how to deal with EMF pollution by minimizing your exposure. Obviously, cell phones and other electronics aren’t going away and these days it’s way too hard to live without them, unless you happen to be Amish (in which case you aren’t reading this blog!) But if you walk around all day with your cell phone or head phones/ earbuds permanently attached, then yes, you could have symptoms and the EMF radiation could be causing them. The same holds if you are glued to your computer screen or tablet for several hours a day, your wireless router is right next to your desk or your bed or you have a host of wireless devices on 24/7. Turning off the electronics is the most obvious choice: if you don’t need it on, turn it off, or at least put it on Airplane Mode. I turn off my wifi at home simply because it’s a mobile device and leaving it on drains the battery. I could leave it hooked up to the charger 24/7 so I can leave it on all the time, but that’s just too much of a hassle for me, just like charging the phone in the bedroom is too much of a hassle (I don’t need to hear all the pings and dings every time I get a text or an email, but I do want to be able to hear the phone if it rings).
What is a little more insidious is that we now have wireless devices which emit this radiation that we might not thing about as being a “wireless” device, such as a plain old cordless phone for your landline (millenials: Google it); a smart scale; a smart tv; a smart refrigerator; a smart doorbell; or any other lamp, security system or device connected to having a smart home. As I stated above, anything electrical emits an EMF field, but smart devices emit additional radiation which adds to the load and can cause problems if you are around them all the time. These also include things like a wireless keyboard and/ mouse, both of which I have on my desk right now. Minimizing our exposure starts with simply opting for the old fashioned corded devices if possible. If you have a landline, use a corded phone. Switch to a wired keyboard and mouse (not bloody likely here with the infernal octopus still living under my desk right now!) The same goes for head phones/ earbuds and earpieces (required in California if you are going to use your phone while driving). Most mobile devices like tablets, phones and iPods have an Airplane Mode, so you should use it if you don’t need to be connected. Both Jeremy Johnson and Alison Main insist that you don’t need to be surrounded by wireless radiation in order to stay connected and stay healthy: Mr. Johnson works in IT in San Francisco and Ms. Main is a freelance writer/ business owner. Both minimize their EMF exposure and stay connected in a digital world. I am sure they are both way more connected than I am!
If you think you might be sensitive to EMF/ wireless radiation, Jeremy Johnson gave a TEDx talk on the topic and his website is https://www.emfanalysis.com/. His website has info on the health effects, solutions as well as a link to his TEDx talk. Alison Main is a freelance writer whose most recent article on this topic covers the hazards EMF and wireless radiation pose to children and pregnant women. Her article “The Kids Are Not All Right” is in the February/ March issue of Paleo Magazine (https://alisonmain.me/tag/emf-safety/). Both podcasts on PMR are available with the show notes on iTunes.
Regardless of whether you are sensitive to EMF or not, it’s just a good idea to unplug now and then. One of the little perks about doing water aerobics at my gym is that I can’t ‘plug in’ while working out even if I wanted to As I’m in the pool, having actual human interaction with my classmates, I’ve noticed how many of the others at the gym are constantly connected to their phones whether wired or wireless. As a child, I grew up spending at least one evening a week unplugged from tvs and technology and spent it with actual people (my extended family), and I think it taught me the value of real connections over virtual ones. Make a habit of making real connections on a regular basis: it keeps you grounded!